Writer: HP Lovecraft
Adaptor: Adrian Jameson
Reviewer: James Napleton
Are great artists inspired or insane? With Richard Upton Pickman the distinction isn’t clear.
The story is written by cult horror writer H P Lovecraft and follows a middle-class Bostonian, Thurber, who recalls several meetings with Pickman to a friend. He became intrigued when Pickman was thrown out of the Boston Art Club, for his ghoulish and unnatural drawings of demonic scenes, witches and humanoid creatures.
Examples of Pickman’s work cover the stage, standing on large tripods with long spindly wooden legs. A large object is hidden at the back of the stage by a large paint stained sheet. There is a seat, a bottle of whiskey and a telephone, where the protagonist retells his meetings with Pickman to a friend. The stage is split: the side with the telephone a warm straw light, which denotes the present time, and the other a ghoulish green light that represents Thurber’s memories of Pickman. As the story unfolds the audience are lead between the two timelines, with the present and the past clashing together, as Thurber is still haunted by his memories of what he saw.
The adaptation is an intelligent reworking of the way the original story is told, as it retains Lovecraft’s chilling and intriguing language while translating the story for the theatre. Every detail in the production has been considered and executed brilliantly, from the suggestive red paint stains running down Pickman’s trousers to the pregnant pauses and range of props. The direction is excellent, with the script and performances complementing each other.
The end of the play is thrilling and will haunt an audience afterwards, however, the final plot development is not particularly clear and this detracts from the macabre close. Also, the performance is only brief, it runs just over half an hour and the ending can leave the audience a little surprised. Nonetheless, this performance is quality over quantity and is an excellent adaptation of a classic writer.
Runs until 14 May 2017 at Sweet Dukebox
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